The United Nations reports logistical obstacles are making it difficult to get aid to cyclone victims in Burma's Irrawaddy Delta. U.N. officials say the Burmese authorities have now approved visas for UN aid workers, but that there is an overwhelming need for assistance. Lisa Schlein reports for VOA from Geneva.
The U.N. spokeswoman for the Office of the Coordination of Humanitarian Assistance, Elizabeth Byrs, says the Burmese government has approved all remaining 45 visa requests for UN agencies, nearly a month after Cyclone Nargis tore through the region, leaving 134-thousand people dead or missing and more than a million in need of assistance.
Byrs says assessment teams that have traveled to the Irrawaddy Delta report there are major obstacles to delivering aid there. "And they have seen the main problem is a logistical problem. How to get and deliver assistance from the sea with a barge into this maze of rivers, of little streams... And, also the lack of infrastructure in the country, for instance, the cranes. There are no cranes available in the ports, and we will have to bring into the country mobile cranes," he said.
Byrs says the World Food Program has distributed food to nearly 500,000 out of 750,000 planned beneficiaries. She says the WFP plans to provide emergency assistance to 11 townships in the Irrawaddy Delta and eight townships in the main city of Rangoon.
The International Organization for Migration says it has received eight additional visas. IOM spokesman Jean-Philippe Chauzy, says these experts will arrive in Burma on Saturday. He says they include health, logistics and operation specialists. He says IOM already has eight mobile health teams working in the region.
"This week, for instance, they managed to visit 28 villages in the Delta region. And, they found over 10-thousand people that were still living in temporary shelters, including in temples and public buildings. In terms of health assessment for this particular population, cases of acute diarrhea, gastro-enteritis, acute respiratory infections, pneumonia, measles and suspected cases of malaria and jaundice."
To date, the United Nations reports about 180 planes carrying relief supplies have been unloaded in Rangoon. It says helicopters and trucks also are available to deliver goods within the country.
As more relief begins arriving by sea, the U.N. says barges and boats will be used increasingly to ferry supplies through the narrow river routes in the Delta.